D1 Champs Finish Tough Title Roads

October 15, 2016

By Scott Keyes
Special for Second Half

MIDLAND – Redemption is bittersweet for Troy High School's Steve Forman.

A year ago as a sophomore, Forman advanced to the Lower Peninsula Division 1 semifinals at No. 1 singles as a four seed – losing to eventual flight champion Connor Johnston of Northville.

So heading into this season, Forman had high expectations. However, Forman suffered an ankle injury in mid-August that forced him to miss the majority of this fall.

But that didn't stop him from making his mark on the season nonetheless.

Forman stormed through his Regional and was the top seed entering Friday and Saturday’s Division 1 Finals at the Midland Tennis Center.

The junior left-hander captured his first No. 1 singles title, winning the first three games against Bloomfield Hills’ Josh Mukherjee to set the tone in his 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 victory.

"Josh and I played numerous times in the past and we've gone into tiebreakers. But to come in here this weekend and play as well as I did, I couldn't be prouder of the way that I played," Forman said.

"After having to sit out most of the season, this victory is bittersweet. It was a long road back, but to win a state championship is pretty cool.”

Forman credits jumping out to a quick start as the key to his success.

"I played so well in the first set and was able to hit my spots," he said. "I got up, 2-1, (in the second set) and was on serve and felt really good. I just kind of got a little tight and thought a little ahead, maybe. I had to refocus for the third set. It’s always been winning the big points, which I was able to do today.”

Mukherjee won a heated semifinal over two-time singles champion Alex Wen of Novi, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. (Wen won No. 2 in 2015 and No. 3 in 2014.) The match lasted nearly 2½  hours.

Meanwhile, Ann Arbor Huron also found redemption on the day, capturing its first Division 1 boys title since 2013.

Coach Stefan Welch, who has led the program the past 15 seasons, watched his team battle to finally capture the championship with the No. 1 doubles victory of Chris Cho and Brenden Chen over Birmingham Brother Rice’s Josh Anschuetz and Travis Tucker, 7-5, 6-4.

Huron finished with 30 points, and Bloomfield Hills was second at 28.

"Our kids really battled," Welch said. "This was a very hard-fought win. We got off to a slow start this morning, but I am proud of the way we came together as a group and got this done."

Heading into the day, Bloomfield Hills was seeded third or higher at all but one flight, led by top seeds Andrew Zhang at No. 2 singles and Constantine Hemmrich at No. 3. 

Zhang cruised to the No. 2 title after defeating freshman Luke Baylis of Clarkston, 6-1, 6-0.

Freshman Sahil Deenadayalu, the top seed at No. 4 singles, defeated senior Brad Silverman, 6-3, 6-3, to keep Huron in the title hunt. Silverman was a runner-up his final two seasons.

Hemmrich repeated at No. 3 singles, winning this time 6-3, 6-2, over Owen Kelley of Huron.

Other winners on the day included Novi’s Aakash Ray and Nayan Makim, who defeated Troy's Vedaant Garg and Spencer Liu, 7-5,1-6, 6-2 at No 3 doubles. At No. 4, the team of Gabe Kleer and Josh Lee of Ann Arbor Pioneer defeated Troy's Vishal Bethamcherla and Ricky Young, 6-2, 7-6 (0).

Click for full results.

PHOTO: (Top) Ann Arbor Huron' Sahil Deenadayalu stretches out for a return during a No.4 singles match at the Division 1 Final on Saturday at Midland Tennis Center. (Middle) Troy's Steve Forman sends back a volley at No. 1 singles. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

West Iron Makes Every Point Count Winning Finals Title by Slimmest of Margins

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for MHSAA.com

May 30, 2024

KINGSFORD – After a two-year absence, the West Iron County Wykons returned to the top of Division 2 boys tennis in the Upper Peninsula on Wednesday with their razor-thin victory over host Iron Mountain and 2023 champion Ishpeming at Kingsford High School.

With two flight championships and four runner-up finishes, West Iron County recorded 14 points compared to 13 for Iron Mountain and 12 for Ishpeming.

Junior No. 2 singles player Zander Birmingham and the No. 3 doubles duo of senior Ethan Isaacson and junior Keenan Dobson-Donati led the Wykons to their first team championship since 2021.

Second-year coach Jim Anderson was effusive in his praise for his squad.

“I’m thrilled beyond words,” Anderson said. “They put in a lot of work this season and had a ton of commitment, and that showed on the court today. They played with a ton of heart and a lot of grit, and they dug deep for the win.”

Birmingham rolled to his second U.P. championship after having won the title at No. 4 singles in 2023, losing just two games in his two matches on Wednesday, both to Munising’s Levi Westcomb in the final.

“To move up from (No. 4) singles to (No.2) singles and still have the same success means a lot to me,” Birmingham said. “I’m very, very excited and just proud of myself in general.”

At No. 3 doubles, Issacson and Dobson-Donati earned a bye into the second round, then won by forfeit in the semifinals before fighting off Iron Mountain’s Ben Truong and Carter Kassin 6-4, 7-5 in the final.

“Two of the hardest-working kids on the court,” Anderson said of his No. 3 doubles pairing. “Ethan’s a senior and one of the leaders on the team this year, and Keenan’s been moving up the ranks. They had a goal in mind today, and they achieved it.”

In the top flights, Munising’s Carson Kienitz recorded his third U.P. title – his first in singles – by defeating West Iron County’s Caleb Strom 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1, while Iron Mountain’s brother tandem of Reece and Oskar Kangas knocked off Hunter Smith and Caden Luoma 7-5, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles.

Iron Mountain senior Reece Kangas lines up a forehand shot during the No. 1 doubles championship decider.Kienitz, a two-time U.P champion at No. 1 doubles, scuffled a bit early in his match against Strom but rolled to the victory once he got going.

“Pretty much every match that I’ve played I start out really slow and I lose the first couple of games,” the 6-foot-4 junior said. “But I start to learn my opponent and I get in my groove, and I’m able to climb back up and finish it.”

Kienitz did so Wednesday against Strom, who came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed and had defeated Kienitz in their previous two matches.

“I knew he hits it really hard, and he’s a good player,” Kienitz said of Strom. “But instead of playing his game and hitting the ball back hard and making mistakes, I was just playing my game and hitting to his backhand and pushing the net.”

In the top doubles flight, the Kangas brothers also started slowly in the final but won 13 of the final 18 games to record their first U.P. title in their only attempt.

Reece said he had to convince his 6-foot-6 brother Oskar, an all-U.P. Dream Team selection in basketball, to take up tennis this season.

“I definitely had to talk him into it,” said Reece, who played singles his previous seasons. “He was thinking of doing some other sports and I told him, ‘If you and me play doubles this year, it will be a year to remember, especially for me in my senior year.”

To close out their “year to remember,” the Kangas brothers needed to gain some revenge on Smith and Luoma, who had won the previous matchup in the Mid-Peninsula Conference championship.

“We knew it would be tough, they are a quick team and they retrieve a lot, so it’s hard to score on them,” Oskar said of the Ishpeming pair. “But we had a sense of urgency today. It was our last (match) no matter what, so we wanted to go out with a big win.”

The Mountaineers posted two other flight championships. Freshman Braden Kassin outlasted West Iron County’s Dominick Brunswick 7-6, 7-6 at No. 3 singles, and freshman Malakai Broersma fought back to upend West Iron’s James White 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.

Ishpeming won the other two flights. Hayden Hares and Tramon Gauthier knocked off Iron Mountain’s Geno Schinderle and Dylan Lindgren 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles, while Adam Maki and Ethan Corp topped West Iron’s Jackson Secord and Matthew Swenski 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 doubles.

PHOTOS (Top) Munising's Carson Kienitz returns a serve during the No. 1 singles championship match at the MHSAA U.P. Division 2 Final on Wednesday in Kingsford. (Middle) Iron Mountain senior Reece Kangas lines up a forehand shot during the No. 1 doubles championship decider. (Photos by Sean Chase.)